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Court ruling: Washburn High principal was wrongly fired

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The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Minneapolis school officials did not have enough evidence to fire a high school principal only a few days after he started his job in August 2013, KSTP reports.

Patrick Exner was put on administrative leave just four days after he became principal of Washburn High School in Minneapolis, after he was accused of tampering with state test results at his previous school.

The allegations came to light in an anonymous email sent shortly after his hiring, claiming Exner changed answers for three students on Minnesota’s GRAD reading test at a charter school in Hopkins. The email also said the school found other instances of Exner reviewing student exams.

Exner denied the allegations, but he was fired one month later. He appealed his dismissal, and on Monday the appeals court ruled the district did not have sufficient evidence to support his firing.

The appeals panel sent the case back to lower court, and ordered the school district to make a stronger case, the Star Tribune reports.

Exner's attorney, T. J. Conley, said he's gratified by the court's decision, according to the Star Tribune.

“We hope that the MPS takes this decision to heart and does the right thing in regard to Mr. Exner, whose spotless record over 24 years of service to students in Minnesota was unfairly tarnished by MPS’ rush to judgment," said Conley.

Minneapolis Public Schools said in a statement that it stands by its decision to fire Exner.

“The court sent the matter back to the board of education on a technical issue, but, in no way, found that the board violated the law," said district spokesman Stan Alleyne. "We will comply with the court’s decision. The Minneapolis Board of Education will consider the matter at its next meeting.”

The school board hired a new principal at Washburn, Rhonda Dean, in May, the Star Tribune notes. Dean was principal at Andover High School for the previous six years.

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